"Cook the sugar carefully as it is easy to burn! And be sure to seek out a good quality, flaky sea salt such as Maldon for a smooth flavor.
1. To make the salted caramel, heat 2 cups (12.5 oz) sugar in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring with a long metal spoon to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is a deep amber.
2. Slowly add 2 1/2 cups cream (mixture will splatter) and cook briefly, stirring, just until all of the caramel has dissolved. Immediately transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Strain and cool to room temperature. Reserve 2/3 cup of the salted caramel - set aside for use as a garnish.
3. Whisk the remaining caramel in with the 5 1/2 cups milk and refrigerate.
4. Pour the chilled milk mixture into the bowl of a 12 quart mixer. Using the whisk attachment, gradually pour in the contents of a package of Royal Cheesecake mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Portion into pudding cups.
5. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired, and drizzle each cup with the reserved salted caramel. Sprinkle a few flakes of the sea salt on top, if desired.
* This recipe works equally well poured into a pre-baked graham cracker crust. Garnish with whipped cream and the reserved salted caramel, slice and serve."